Hostile Planet (Image courtesy of National Geographic)
California School of the Arts

Interview with Oscar-winner Guillermo Navarro, executive producer of National Geographic’s ‘Hostile Planet’

Hostile Planet (Image courtesy of National Geographic)

Coming this April, National Geographic’s “Hostile Planet” will give a look at the world’s harshest landscapes and the animals that live there. I sat down with Academy Award and Oscar winner Guillermo Navarro, known for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Pacific Rim” and “Hellboy” to discuss the highly awaited show.

“The show is about how some species are struggling to survive on our planet that has become hostile,” Navarro said. “The planet has evolved so rapidly that the species have no opportunity to adapt in the traditional sense of adaptation. They are in a permanent need to struggle and to survive and they are having a very hard time with it.”

The docu-series is hosted by adventurer Bear Grylls, who has appeared in other shows such as “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” and “Bear Grylls: Mission Survive.” As somebody with a name synonymous with adventure, Bear Grylls will help highlight the dangers and the survival skills of animals on our planet.

“Bear brings a lot of experience and truth to the story because he is one of the few humans who knows what it’s like to survive in these environments,” Navarro said. “He’s been testing the human limit, so when he became part of the team, he brings that authenticity and credibility.”

Bear Grylls during production of the Grasslands episode of Hostile Planet.
(National Geographic / Jan Du Toit)

Each episode of the show talks about a different environment, the first two being “Mountains” and “Jungle.” It showcases the dangerous situations for animals not only because of nature, but because of human actions with climate change as well.

“I hope that [the audience] is motivated to see how the species are really the heroes of this survival. We have to learn about that. They are doing their part and we have to do our part. It’s a cry for awareness,” Navarro said.

(left to right) Jeremy Hsiao and Guillermo Navarro (Photo by Andy Hsiao)

Navarro’s style of bringing out the visual realism of each scene shines through in this show. Its intense situations mixed with visual masterpieces create a realistic portrayal of the animals that deal with changing, perilous landscapes.

“It became more of a visual narrative as opposed to narration, which has been the traditional way to tell the story. There are voiceovers but they are to add accents in what the viewer is experiencing visually,” Navarro said. “You cannot just be observing like a fish tank. You have to experience what it’s like to be there. That was the most satisfying and important event of working the show.”

The many ways that our planet is changing is discussed in this natural history show. Navarro hopes it will change the way people view this genre and our world in general. With a research team behind the project, “Hostile Planet” isn’t just for entertainment.

BRAZIL – Flooded Forest Filming Brazil, Camera operator Cristian Dimitrius, Capturing an immersive landscape piece on the wettest time of year in the Amazon Jungle. (Cristian Dimitrius / National Geographic)

“It’s a whole process of understanding to what’s happening in different environments. We see how all these different environments affect the animals. We choose which ones are appropriate for this narrative, then we go and we prepare and we wait until we find the elements needed,” Navarro said.

As a successful filmmaker who started with documentaries, Navarro offers his own story on how he managed to accomplish all he has done.

“Part of my success in the fictional world was that I was able to bring a sense of reality to how I approached the film language on telling stories dramatically. My heart has always been in dealing with real life,” Navarro said. “For the young generation of filmmakers and documentarians, this is an incredible path. There’s everything in your reach. You just have to prepare yourself and be ready for when the opportunity comes.”

“Hostile Planet” will air on April 1 on National Geographic in the U.S. and around the world in the spring.